MEscapism: 3D, Avatar and the Quest for Unreal Reality

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scapism: 3D, Avatar and the Quest for
Unreal Reality

May 5, 2010

Erica Nicole Church

Characters total:
53. 257

BA English & European Studies

Vejleder: Marianne Kongerslev



‘Mescapism: 3D, Avatar and the Q
uest for
Unreal Reality’ is a qualitative project. It looks at
American reactions to the film and the 3D experience, and draws upon themes in these reactions in
order to choose with areas to examine more thoroughly and in which directions to look in order to
find p
ossible and plausible reasons for the reactions. For empirical evidence, the paper draws on
reviews of the film, blogs on the subject, and interviews with the director, the production designer
and a producer of the film
, showing an array of diverse
interpretations and opinions. The one
thing that can be concluded from this is that everyone wishes to read something into the film, the
symbolism of their own perspective. One of the theories for this is Twenge’s theory on Generation
ME, along with compar
ative generational theories of Generation Y and the Millennial generation
that elucidate other reasons for the general positivity towards Avatar of this particular generation.

Then the projects turns to the subject of reality. The theory of multiple belief
s by Christian Metz is
explained, criticized by Ben Singer, then applied to the cinematic technology of 3D, and finally
applied to unique use of 3D in Avatar. Jean Baudrillard follows, and Avatar is put through the four
stages of the sign, ultimately endin
g in the fourth stage of hyperreality. In ‘Foreign Familiarity’,
John Urry and his analysis of the tourist gaze and experience is applied to Avatar, concluding that
Avatar is so effective because it is exotic and familiar at once. William Earle argues agai
nst realism
in films, and it is shown how the surreal is a superior forum to convey critical and political
messages, as the surreal is a safe haven for discussion. The subject of nature versus technology is
discussed in ‘Human Nature Gone Digital’, and the

final area before the conclusion is a
philosophical space for thoughts on how Avatar has altered people and perspectives.

Characters total: 53.257











2.1 The Avatar Effect……………………………………………………………………………….1

2.2 Blogging oyt the Blues…………………………………………………………………………..2

3.1 whY not?

3.2 The Me Team……………………………………………………………………

3.3 The Dream Me…………………………………………………………………………………..7

3.4 Too Many Star
s and not Enough Sky…………………………………………………………8

4.1 Visual Value……………………………………………………………………………………..9

4.2 Duality of Reality………………………………………………………………………………11

4.3 Hyperreality……………………………………………………………………………………12

4.4 Foreign Familiarity……………………………………………………………………………13

4.5 Revolt against Realism………………………………………………………………………..14

5.1 Human Nature Gone Digital………………………………………………………………….16

5.2 Altered by Avatar……………………………………………………………………………...16



: 3D,
the Quest for
Unreal R


MEscapism i
s a term used here to emphasize a point. Escapism through media is a contemporary
and broad subject, which here has been narrowed to revolve around the case of
. In this case,
it will be
argued that when escapism is used, it is primarily used as a means to get closer to the ‘real
me’. Instead of escaping into another world, the generation currently coming of age is escaping into
their ideal and what they believe to be their ‘real’ self.

Thesis statement

The quest for virtual reality is rapidly becoming a theme in the 21st century American way of life.
New technology, such as interactive online communication and 3D, has created a new opportunity
for people to have experiences otherwise

outside the realm of reality. How is the movie Avatar a
manifestation of this search for an alternative reality and how does it provide viewers with a means
of escape?



order to examine these questions, a q
ualitative analysis
will be conducted.
Empirical i

on the subject will be presented

in the form of film reviews
, interviews

and blogs
. As the empirical
information consists of others’ analysis of
, this study will in fact be a qualitative analysis of
a recepti
on analysis.
In order to analyze this information, several theorists on a spectrum of a
will be taken into account, both current and classic


his analysis will make use of generational theories by
Freestone & Mitchell,
Winograd & Hais

Twenge & Campbell; generation Y, The Millennial Generation and Generation Me, respective
ly. Then theories of reality will be accessed according to
. First the multiple belief system of
Christian Metz, followed by Baudrillard’s stages of the sign
and hyperreality, the tourist gaze by
John Urryand finally William Earle’s revolt against realism in films.

The Avatar Effect

The 2009 film Avatar has aroused many strong and very versatile reactions. While most of the
attention awarded to the film h
as been positive from audiences and critics alike,
many have also
viewed Avatar as a more simplistic vessel for their own agenda
, either personal or political. The
most common critique is that the storyline is only held up by the 3D technology, and without

Avatar is basically “Pocohontas in Space”

, 2010
, which is a point that cannot be denied
(see appendix
However, the more interesting criti
ques are the ones pertaining not to the

quality of the storyline, but the ones reacting to the themes and political messages that viewers see
in the film.
One writer comes up with quite a list of alternative interpretations:

Little did Cameron
know when he was making

that it would be hai
led as an assault on capitalism, a slap in the
face of Jesus Christ, anti
American, supremely homophobic, against the troops, horribly racist
against people of color, horribly racist against white people and a sign that Hollywood wants

you to
die a painful


of these
themes are widely agreed upon to be an intentional
commentary on American society, such as
the moral message that we should take care of our planet
or we will destroy it

(Lu, 2010)


widely agreed upon is the


accompanies the en
vironmentalist issue of whether

profit is worth

the price of destroying nature,
although people’s reactions to this are quite varied
, as it quickly becomes a political issue
. Others
have chosen to view the film in

light of their own personal agenda.
Some claim that

is racist,
against any number of different races including Caucasian,
despite the fact that the color of the
was carefully chosen in order not to reflect any act
ual race or creed
Some declare

it is
about white power

Horning, 2009
, about how
natives are incompetent and need to be saved
by the white man
, which really makes no sense because the formally white hero does not succeed
until he is blue and ‘converts’ to Na’vi

in on the negative portrayal of the military.
Others are upset about the fact that one of the characters smokes cigarettes on screen (
), even though she is not meant to be a role model and the smoking is deliberate to show that
she does no
t care for her human body
, in fact reinforcing the negative image of smoking

additionally commenting on how we as a society are paying more attention to our avatars than to
our physical bodies
Cieply, 2010)
. And at least one woman fe
els that it is a g
ender issue
, because
the male Na’vi are physically larger than the female Na’vi, despite the fact that the females are also
warriors and the lead female is superior
in every way
to the lead male for most of the film.

miscellaneous interpretations
prove the point of Stuart Hall; while most viewers “operat(e) inside
dominant code” (as cited in Longhurst et al., 2008: 55), in a visual one
way communication text
such as a film, there will always be those who decode the text in a negotiated and an oppos
manner. Yet s
o many different interpretations and all of the manic attention must point in the
direction of a deeper seeded
cause and explanation grouping these passionate yet diverse views into
one common denominator
. New York Times writer Dave It

sums up the obsession
and what seems to be at the core of it: “
That so many groups have projected their issues onto
“Avatar” suggests that it has burrowed into the cultural consciousness in a way that even its
immodest director could not

have anticipated.

(Itzkoff, 2010)

Blogging out the Blues

On Januar
y 11th this year CNN ran a news
about the more emotional reactions to the film
ences experience 'Avatar' blue

(Piazza, 2010)

This article brings light to the more


Cameron actually has this to say on the subject: “
I think every model we should use in evaluating any
project moving forward should be: Is it good business and is it good for the environment? Because there’s this idea
promoted by the right and by special interest groups that you have to choose. You can either have a strong economy
or you can
help the environment, but you can’t do both at the same time.

That’s ridiculous. In fact, as a sustainable
vision for a healthy economy has to involve changing our energy policy and changing with respect to the natural
” (as cited in Day, 2010: para.


emotional experiences

connected to
, concentrating on an online discussion forum created
solely for the purpose of discussing

called ‘Avatar Forums’. In this forum, viewers who had
something to say about the film could communicate their messag
e or exchange experiences with
others who had seen the film and felt the need to discuss it. The primary focus in Piazza’s article is
on a thread titled
‘Ways to cope with the depression of the dr
eam of Pandora being intangible

(Zoconno, 2009)
. Here
viewers could blog about their emotions regarding the film, which most
often were a combination and confusion of positive and negative feelings. While all the people who
posted had positive feelings towards the film, most also felt something else as well;
a longing, a
frustration or a simple sadness over the fact that Pandora is out of actual reach.

Most are
disappointed and depressed, like

(Ivar Hill, 17)
: "When I woke up this morning after watching
Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seeme
d ... gray. It was like my whole life, everything
I've done and worked for, lost its meaning"
(as cited in Piazza, 2010) Others take it
a more
serious level, like Mike:
"Ever since I went to see 'Avatar' I have been depressed. Watching the
wonderful wor
ld of Pandora and all the Na'vi made me want to be one of them. I can't stop thinking
about all the things that happened in the film and all of the tears and shiver
s I got from it.
I even
contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in
a world similar to Pandora and the
ing is the same as in 'Avatar.'”

Thoughts and feelings like these are rooted deeper than any film, and the film is not ultimately to
blame for their sadness. However, it is interesting to examine what it is about
Avatar that brings out
these emotions in people, especially in young people

Dr. Stephan Quentzel, psychiatrist and
Medical Director for the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at Beth Is
rael Medical
Center in New York has a theory:

"It has taken

the best of our technology to create this virtual
world and real life will never be as utopian as it seems onscreen. It makes real life seem more

"Pandora is a pristine world and there is the synergy between all of the creatures of the planet

and I
think that strikes a deep chord within people that has a wishfulness and a wistfulness to it," Lang
(actor in

said. "James Cameron had the technical resources to go along with this incredibly
fertile imagination of his and his dream is buil
t out of the same things that othe
r peoples' dreams are
made of." (Lang as cited in Piazza, 2010)

: "One can say my depression was twofold: I was depressed because I really wanted to live in
Pandora, which seemed like such a perfect place, but I was
also depressed and disgusted with the
sight of our world, what we have done to Earth. I so much wanted to esc
ape reality

This duality of
feelings makes perfect sense according to one critic: “…
science fiction stories are often described
as utopian or dystopian. Cameron's trick in
is to construct a film which is both

the Na'vi society as a utopian alternative to what humans have done to Earth
” (Jenkins, 2010)


is quite d
"It just seems so ... meaningless. I still don't really see any reason to keep
... doing things at all. I live in a dying world.

(as cited in Piazza, 2010)


ctor Stephen Lang, who plays the villainous Col. Miles Quaritch in the film
. (Piazza, 2010)


Cameron cut out the scenes on Earth which were intended to provide some of that contrast (Jenkins, 2010)


the separation anxiety some individuals experience when they depart the movie theater.

Elequin: The first time after I woke up the next day after watching it I "had" to see it again. I have
seen it four times now, and soon to be a fifth. I think watching it takes away that depression,
because when I am watching it, i dont know how to descr
ibe how I feel, but it feels good. I want to
just forget about it all sometimes, take down my avatar wallpaper, stop reading about it

and what
not, but I just cant.
I have to use a quote from the movie sometimes I guess "Sooner or later thoug
you always
have to wake up."

Elequin: “

I dont know if theres any WoW addicts out there, but after seeign Avatar I have lost all
desire to play (and trust me thats l
ike being addicted to any drug)
I'm just hoping it will pass over
time, but if anybody has any recomme
ndations how to
cope I would love to hear them.

The fact that Elequin mentions WoW is powerful. By ‘WoW’, he is referring to World of Warcraft,
a highly addictive

live online
playing game. It prides itself on qualities that are
quite similar to
, namely a lush, vivid and extremely imaginative setting in high quality
graphics, which also happen to be 3D for one’s character in the game.

For Elequin to state that
Avatar has
affected him to the point that he longer wishes to play is serious, and this statement also
speaks to other
s on the forum, like Mikash: “
…as Elequin already said: avatar's addicting. It's like a

worse than WoW ( and I played WoW for 4 years now! )

he positive in this

situation is that these depressed youth are reaching out to express their feelings
and to get help
. Dr. Quentzel agrees that this is a good form of theapy for them, as “
becoming a part
of a community of like
minded people on an online
forum has helped

them emerge from the

Some of the youth even express the relief of posting directly; Okoi is one example:

After I watched Avatar at the first time, I trully felt depressed as I

"wake" up in this world again.
So after few days, I

went to cinema and watched it again for the second time to relieve the
epression and hopeless feeling.
Now I listen to the soundtrack and share my views in this forum. It
really helps
.” (Zoconno, 2009) Quentzel evaluates the situation:
"Obviously there i
s community
building in

these forums.
It may be technologically different from other community building, b
ut it
serves the same purpose."

Posting updates in order to inform readers of one’s emotions and to
get feedback
most commonly
done in the form of
blogging. Common is a vague word
to be more specific: “
A Pew Internet &
American Life Project report estimated in 2006 that one in every

ten adult Americas had a blog…
least 100 million Americans, a solid third of the country, read blogs. …(These are) b
ig numbers,
growing numbers, numbers that clearly suggest universal social acceptance.

(Niedzviecki, 2009: 7)
A nod in the direction of universal social acceptance i
s a t
shirt found online announcing that
‘Blogito ergo sum’



a play on words of the famous quote by René
Descartes, who originally stated that ‘I think, therefore I am’. This t
shirt then claims that ‘I blog,
therefore I am’, commenting on the fact that more and more people write online blogs, making it a


There is even a wikihow on how to quit playing th
e game:

, as well as a WoW detox website


normal thing for people to do.
This t

is mostly poking fun at the intensity with which some
people blog, as if their life only were validated th
rough others reading about it.
In some cases it has
become such a habit that the act of blogging has gone
from being an action one partakes in to
becoming part of o
ne’s actual identity. Hal Niedzviecki has completed extensive research on the
subject for his book
The Peep Diaries

(2009). He informs the reader that “
Everyone I’ve spoken
with about blogging has s
aid in one way or anot
her that it’s addictive.”, and questions whether the
habit of blogging can be ‘unlearned’.
(Niedzviecki, 2009: 45)

Much of the lure of blogging is
attributed to “the idea that there is a community that needs you, a community in which
you can be a
star just be being yourself.” (Niedzviecki, 2009: 55)

He also has a theory on what the driving force
behind this is:

The easy answer is to say that they just want the attention. And that’s definitely true.
But dig deeper and we find that most

people aren’t trying to become superstars; they’re trying to
meet a need that our society no longer seems able to fulfill. Those things that were once provided
by community and regulated, in large part, by gossip and face
face interaction, are now the
responsibility of corporations, governments, and bureaucrats. As a result, despite the seeming
appearance of rampant individualism in our society, we are actually more observed, managed,
categorized, and analyzed, and ultimately more conformist than ever.

peep culture is our twisted
answer to the problem of the dehumanizing of humanity.
” (Niedzviecki, 2009: 27)

This theory
could help explain why the people who posted about longing for a life on Pandora do so

why they
feel the way they do

and why they felt the need to post about it

Why people choose to post or blog about the most intimate details of their lives and emotions is not
an easily answered question. Niedzviecki has

first that blogging is an ego
issue, an
d secondly
that people are exhibiting this behavior in order to make up for at lack in
Both of these factors contribute to why these people feel the way that they do about
longing for a physically impossible fantasy to be true and complain
ing about the fact that it is not is
wallowing in self
indulgent pity. No good can or will come from wanting what no one can have, so
it is completely an ego
centered issue.
This egotism is also what arouses their yearning to live in
Pandora, as it is a pl
ace where one (meaning the hero, to whom we relate ourselves) can defy all
obstacles that stand in their way and become the hero.

On the other hand, the evaporating sense of community that Niedzviecki alludes to could be
partially to blame for the need to
reach out and confess to strangers
. This could also be some of the
reason why

to them; the Na’

culture includes strong values of unity
, tradition

respect for and a deep, physical connection with all forms of life.
Both of these
explanations are
possible and plausible, and both are probably part of the puzzle.

whY not?

These near opposite reactions

beg the question: why are the responses so
course no two people are alike, and any reaction to the film will have been affected by one’s
previous experiences and other influences. However, there is a theory which may be a contributing
factor: generational theory.
People are individuals, but they

are also a product of their time, and so
necessarily there must be defining differences between each generation.
Freestone and Mitchell

have conducted a study on Generation Y, the current youth of America. By looking at this
generation’s attitude towards
ethics in the department of internet
related misdemeanors (Freestone
& Mitchell, 2004),
it quickly becomes apparent that Generation Y has a different definition of what
is ethically acceptable than its preceding generations
: “…unethical activities, some of

generation Ys use to exploit businesses via the Internet and related technologies, and…many were
not seen as wrong.” (Freestone & Mitchell, 2004: 127)


refers to the breaking of
copyright laws, which can be compared to plagiarism
In an A
merican survey “
eight percent
of the undergraduate students surveyed said that in the last year they had engaged in one or more
instances of "cut
paste" plagiarism involving the Internet, paraphrasing or copying anywhere
from a few sentences to
a full paragraph from the Web without citing the source. Almost half the
students said they considered such behavior trivial or not cheating at all.
” (Rimer, 2003: para.2)

The professors agree:
"There are a lot of students who are growing up with the
Internet who are
convinced that anything you find on the Internet is public knowled
ge and doesn't need to be cited.
(Professor Donald L. McCabe as cited in Rimer, 2003: para

This relaxed attitude towards taking
credit for the work of others could be ca
used by the lack of a deeply rooted feeling that one must
work for what one gets and earn it through no means but one’s own, which will be elaborated later.
This attitude, however, may be one of the reasons why it appears to be mainly if not only the older

generations that are offended by the fact that the storyline in Avatar is far from original. This does
not seem to bother Generation Y, which stands in stark contrast to the reactions of the older
generation of Baby Boomers. Baby Boomers are
of an idealis
t era and are “independent dividers”.
(Winograd & Hais, 2009: 34) To generalize
, they

are, like any other generation, a product of their
time, which is “clearly reflected in a wide range of demographic data.” (Winograd & Hais, 2009:
Baby Boomers are no
toriously independent and critical, expecting much from themselves and
nothing less from others. Any related form of plagiarism is not going to go over well with them, and
they seem to be the ones complaining the most and the loudest about
’s suppose
d lack of

In contrast, the young Generation Ys, or the Millennials, as Winograd and Hais have dubbed them,
have other prominent values such as inclusion and acceptance. (Winograd & Hais, 2009: 42) They
are part of the new civic era that strive
s for peace and harmony, and is willing to
movie Avatar speaks to the Millen
ials, because the moral message is about inclusion of other races
and embracing differences. It is about respecting other people and the environment. It is peace over
war, selflessness over greed,
over individuality. It is about being a part of
bigger and better than one’s self.

The Me Team

what is bigger and better (and bluer) than one’s self? One’s avatar, of course. Mentally
stepping into another body, the main character suddenly becomes capable of being the hero
, despite
the fact that for most of the film he is not socially accepted in the science world or the Na’vi world.

Although the film preach
es unity and harmony,

g the hero is not dependent on this. It is his
personal attributes, his courage, logic and sheer deter
mination that save the day
, demonstrating

unstoppable power of individuality
, ultimately echoing the American Dream.

Jean M. Twenge,
Ph.D. and Keith W. Campbell, Ph.D. claim
that this

tendency towards egotism is a prominent
problem wit
h and for today’s

youth. They have dubbed the issue ‘t
narcissism epidemic’

in their
book of the same name.

coming of age feels that they are phenomenal for
simply being themselves. This is particularly an American issue, and also is somewhat of
a patriotic
issue; the American Dream was originally about working hard to achieve any dream, but
somewhere along the way the working hard part got lost. And so the American youth is left to
believe that they can achieve anything because it is the American


to have one’s dreams
come true, and
because it is their
right to be happy.

The Dream Me

ion Me

(Twenge, 2006

is a generation who dreams, just like any generation before them.
They dream of a better life, just like their parents, the
ir grandparents and all the preceding
generations. The feeling of a dream is universal and eternal; what the dream consists of is not.

the dream of ‘a better life’ is far from definable, very vague and open to interpretation. For some it
means getting

an education, having the opportunity to achieve more than they would elsewhere in
the world or more than their parents achieved. It could mean giving one’s children a sense of
security that oneself had been deprived of, or maybe not being forced to compro
mise one’s morals
in order to survive. For the more privileged, it most often means the d
ream of
being rich and/or
And more often than not, the dream could be more accurately described as ‘a better me’, as
the dreams tend to revolve around oneself
rather than one’s entire life and the people in it.



the dream of ‘the real me’.

Generation Me was brought up with a keen sense of being
able to do whatever they want to do and be whoever they want to be. Parents and educators believed

that they were liberating the next generation from the bonds of restriction and preaching the
American Dream. ‘Great effort!’ stickers and participation trophies flooded any area of competition.

Dangling a carrot

was by far the most accepted and promoted
motivational tool, the

stick of

left in the dust
. B
y inspiring the youth to be positive about their dreams and futures, the
youth would work hard to achieve these dreams and be a great and successful generation.

Somehow it did not exactly turn o
ut that way. The
subtitle of Twenge’s
Generation Me

(2006) says
it all: “Why today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled

and More
Miserable Than Ever Before”.

This generation is coming of age, stepping out into the real world,
and realizing that they are not equipped to live in it.

Actually, their parents are realizing this, while
the floundering youth play the blame game and continue to turn to their parents t
o solve their
problems for them.
They have grown up to believe, consciously or subconsciously, that they were
destined to hit the jackpot; that without putting in the work, they would get the gold medal. This
sounds illogical, yet it makes sense for this g
eneration: why would they not believe this to be true
when it is all they have ever heard and experienced?

So they yearn for the quick fix shortcut to

People become affected by
to the extent that they do in part because they are frustrated
they cannot have what they want. Even when things might actually be out of reach for them in real

life, they are still told that these things are possible to achieve. This young generation is suffering
through its first real reality check

thanks to
an unobtainable fantasy.

At the same time, they are
attracted to Avatar because it is a quick fix solution; sitting still for two and a half hours is just
about the absolute least one can do in order to get what one wants. For this small price viewers are
with a trip to outer space, where they get to experience all of the highs and lows of being
a hero. If it were actually possible to travel to Pandora as they do in the film, it is doubtful that as
many would pursue the option as presently claim to

be depressed without it, as it would demand
hard work and much sacrifice, not to mention the danger involved.
Most people today never
experience being in true mortal peril, and although they may not yearn for that in particular, it is
possible that they desire the drama that they lack in their real life. For those people whose basic
human needs are satisfied, it i
s only natural to long for something more.
When even those things
which indeed are out of reach seem within reach (according to the American Dream, anything is

need to long for something
that resembles a dream and gives space for self
, which is exactly the space that Pandora is.

Avatars in general are an optimal solution for Generation Me, because it entails no work yet a
unique experience. Some entrepreneurs have caught on to this trend, such as the live online chat

which incidentally and perhaps not coincidentally sounds like ‘I envy you’,
offers the opportunity to create an avatar of one’s self. This avatar is not based on any photo, but is
an opportunity to create oneself from scratch as one wishes to
. The caption on

their ad (see
appendix Image

2) is: “
Define your own virtual reality, and be who you want to be on IMVU. Meet
people from around the world.
Chat in 3D... and have fun!

. It is a way
to be thin and gorgeous in a way that demands a lot of work
and discipline
in reality
. Many
overweight people feel that the ‘real them’ is hidden underneath the layers, and this feeling is either
produced or reinforced by the media and partic
ularly weight
loss programs. IMVU (and other sights
that use avatars) is a place where one can escape from reality not to a true fantasy, but to a
projection of one’s self; one is escaping reality in order to be one’s true self. Strengthening this

is the fact that p
lastic surgery
at an all
time high

in America
. (Twenge
& Campbell,

The quick fix is popular when it comes to becoming who one really is.

Too Many Stars and not Enough Sky

Our real selves are indeed who we long to be.
Generation Me has grown up hearing that they are
fantastic just as they are and that they should embrace their personal identity because nobody was
just like them; everybody is special. Naturally, this has lead to an adoration of the self, or often the
al’ self whom one has yet to become. This generation was brought up to believe that they could
do whatever they wanted to do and be whoever they wanted to be, so there has been little incentive
to dream of being someone else.

William Earle elucidates the w
ish, though speaking of another
matter: “each film most closely exemplified nothing but its own type, that is, no type at all. Each is
what it is and asks not so much to be typed as simply seen.” (Earle, 1986: 151)

People, as well as
films, wish to seen as

their own type and simply seen. This is probably true for all people in the
world to some degree, but it is most prominent in Generation Me. A feature in Avatar that must

appeal especially to this youth is Na’vi expression for love; the Na’vi do not say t
hat love each
other, but rather that they ‘see’ the other person.

“Today, more than ever, we want to be the stars, and we’re told that, yes, we can and should and
probably will be stars. After all, anybody can be a celebrity in the age of reality TV, blogg
ing, and
social networks, can’t they?” (Niedzviecki, 2009: 49)

Reality TV and other medias in this vein are

the cheat code for the

game of celebrity, and this is a

generation tha
t is not above typing that code

have ce
ased to demand anything from them
selves or from others in

exchange for celebrity

The dream of stardom has been replaced by the dream celebrity, and Niedzviecki goes as far
as to deem this “the death of the star” (Niedzviecki, 2009:

Becoming a star seems like a lot of
work, while becoming a celebrity can happen overnight.

The dream of being famous is alive and doing so well that it no longer is inseparably attached to
talent, not to say that
most people do not make use of their suppo
sed talents (or lack thereof) to gain
their fifteen minutes of fame. As reality show like American Idol, X
Factor and America’s Got
Talent showcase, there is nearly an epidemic of deluded Americans whom are all convinced that
they are full of natural talen
t. In fact, these shows depend on these people who have overrated their
level of talent, as they provide a large portion of the entertainment.

The entire portion of
entertainment is in fact provided by the public who is eager to become an overnight celebri

Even in A
, the main character is just a plain old
oe (Jake),
until he is by chance and through
no doing of his own thrown into an adventure. Jake’s human body is disabled, but he is given

magical quick fix of an avatar body
, in which he sudde
nly is capable of being the hero. He had a
dull, ordinary life, and then suddenly he is handed a new life.

He is exempt from the rules as he fits
is the only one let into the inner circle

of the Na’vi
and is so because of a spiritual sign. He
becomes a le
gend when he
becomes Toruk Makto
, a feat which Jake himself explains as though it
were mostly luck.

This is very reminiscent of
Harry Potter

or the TV series
; the dream of
being discovered, picked up out of the drudgery of reality and plopped into


unrealistic reality
Generation Me longs

to be larger than life,
to be famous and/or
a hero.
The film


currently in theaters crosses the boundary between fantasy and reality. It

is about a group of people
who decide to become real
life su
perheroes, which is an interesting

lend of movie fantasy and
reality wi
thin a movie.

s in general can have a life of their own. Players of online gaming would agree that
sometimes the virtual

can seem
important and more real than actual

If one has a high
status in the world of avatars and a relatively low status in the real world, then the
become one’
s escap
e from

the r
eal world and into the fantasy world. If the fantasy world is more
positive, a place to go to feel good
and even perhaps is a place where human
interaction takes place,
than who is to definitively decide what is real

and what is not?


Sight is the primary sense of most humans.
“Seeing comes before words”, John Berger points out.
(as cited in Longhurst et al., 2008: 269)
It is what we rely on to help us understand what is going on

in the world around us. In the past decade alone, many improvements have been made in the field of
ilm technology
, improving visual as well as auditory equipment
. The auditory breakthrough came
with the introduction of surround sound. Surround sound helped give the audience the feeling that
they were literally in the film, and that the scenes were happe
ning all the way around them; it was

them, not merely in front of

And of course audiences responded; but not
emotionally as they did to 3
D. Where surround

sound appeals to one’s ears, 3
D appeals to one’s
eyes, and while both senses ar
e ones that people rely heavily on, somehow visual stimulation has a
powerful impact. An estimated 40
% of people are visual in their primary learning style

, meaning that visual images are more easily remembered than say a sp
eech presented
. This could help explain the enormous an
d often emotional response to 3
D technology in
films, particularly

In thi
s sense, to be immersed in a 3D
enhanced film is comparable to
having a vivid dream. Visually, everything appears to be real, an
d since we rely so heavily on our
vision to tell us real from fake, our brain accepts the vision to be real. Even if we on some level are
aware that it is only a dream, whatever happens in the dream can feel very real in the moment and
can even affect us e
motionally after the dream is over in our waking state. While oftentimes the
actions taking place in the dream and the actual images quickly evaporate from our memory, the
emotions are apt to linger.
And so it is with
; the images fade away, but the feelings that were
stirred up during the film stay close to the surface, and so
viewers long to reconnect the images with
the feelings, and verify their emotions. Positive emotions are ones people naturally seek to relive,
ith the classic example being the young schoolgirl telling and retelling the story of her first kiss.
Simply t
alking about an event makes it come alive again
, so when the opportunity of actually
repeating a positive emotional high exists (a
lthough any repe
ated viewing is naturally

completely comparable to an initial viewing)
, obviously it will be taken advantage of. When
something seems so real

looks real, sounds real, feels real

it becomes difficult to argue that it is

The very final scene of

is an image of Jake waking

up in his avatar body
. One is left
: what is he waking up to? Reality or fantasy

or some sort of hybrid of the two?

Production designer for the film Rick Carter describes it as “
…phantasmagoric, a dream state. I

think one of the things that the movie achieves is a sense of going in and out of a dream state, until
the dream state wins. It's a hybrid movie in both form and content. It's a partially photographed,
digitally photographed, live
action movie. Your sympa
thies and your empathies shift over the
course of the movie, with the main character. It is like going to Oz, coming back and forth, until
finally, Oz takes over, rather than just going

You don't hav
e to go back home at the end...”.
(Schwartz, 2010) I
n the film,
the issue of real
ty versus fantasy is even addressed directly. Jake


the b
the lin
es between reality and fantasy:

This other world is now more
real than my real world"

Viewers can relate to this out
body feeling of be
ing transported into
another world, another reality, because on some level that is exactly what they are going through at
the exact same moment. Jake and the viewers experience what Carter calls the “avatar state”
(quoted in Schwartz, 2010) together, bondi
ng the viewer even deeper with the film. The ‘avatar
state’ is a “ hybrid state of being part human and part this other”. (quoted in Schwartz, 2010)
hybrid state is intensified by t
he act of putting on the 3
D glasses

(see appendix Image 3)



is not without its significance. It is a voluntary act symbolizing the ch
oice to step into this world.
The viewer is

indeed putting on a costume, dressing the part in order to partake in the experience of
the film, not unlike the humans in the film when t
hey put on a ‘costume’, their avatar. In order t
o be

in the world of Pandora, viewers and characters alike



make the choice to adapt to the
surroundings by physically alter
ing their

senses, be it thr
the use of
3D lenses or an avatar

blogger puts it like this: “
The story of jacking into an avatar body helped to guide us
through the shifts in perception we experienced and soon, I came to accept the aliens as simply part
of the reality
of the film.” With the use of 3D, reality within fan
tasy is only a shift in perception

Duality of R

Christian Metz published a theory on reality in film with the use of a Freudian theory. Freud
’s essay
on fetishism from 1927 (Singer, 1988
: 4
) claims that fetishes stem from the first time a young boy
sees his mother naked and discovers that she does not have a penis, contradicting his prior
assumption that everyone has a penis. This leads the boy to believe that the mother has been
and that creates a fear in him of a similar fate.
He goes into the classic first stage of grief,
denial (Kübler
Ross model of the five stages of grief) and refuses to believe what he has witnessed.
Since he is unable to forget the sight, he
focuses his att
ention on a material object connected
somehow to the traumatic event, covering up what
he seen and doubling his belief in the “phallic
woman” (Singer, 1988
: 4
). This situation creates an eternal contradiction between what the boy
knows to be true and what
he has decided to believe and focus on. This duality of belief and
disbelief is what Metz bases his theory on. Metz claims that while watching a film, one is forever in
limbo between what one logically knows, which is that everything in the film is not act
happening, and what chooses to temporar
ily believe in, which is the storyline and the film itself, in
order to enjoy the media of film. Singer explains that Metz “
implies a parallel between the spectacle
of phallic lack and the spectacle of the cinem
atic image.
” (Singer, 1988: 5)

which he elaborates as
the play of belief and disbelief, the simultaneous embracing and resisting of an illusion that
characterizes both the child's (mis)conception of phallic absence and the viewer's relation to the

.” (Singer, 1988: 4) By this he means


“deny the signifier”

(Metz quoted in
Singer, 1988: 5) just as

the fact tha
t their mothers are ‘phallicly challenged’. To deny the
signifier means to look past the media through which the st
oryline is portrayed and allowing oneself
to become emerged in the film. However, this is never fully possible to achieve, as the knowledge
that it is all simply a fantasy will always be with one. Metz maintains that this knowledge will be
present at all t
imes, as the media functions as an “unveiling of a lack” (Singer, 1988: 5)
. Singer
challenges this point, as he feels that the parallels between the two are not sufficiently similar.
Singer criticizes the theory, as he believes that without an actual momen
t of unveiling, the viewer is
not disturbed from his indulgence in the fantasy at any certain point, and so not awoken from the
dream state of the film until it is over. This is a valid point, which applies to
most films, unless they
intentionally break th
e fourth wall by speaking directly to the audience. However, 3D technology
has altered the manner in which films are perceived by audiences. 3D is a new piece of cinematic
technology which filmmakers still are experimenting with. Most often the attraction
of the 3D
experience is the surprising effect breaking the fourth wall has on the audience. The films that are
filmed wit
h 3D technology in mind, like Tim Burton
‘s Alice in Wonderland (2010)
, use the
technology to reach out from the film and into the audie
nce, causing the audience to be pleasantly
surprised and yet pleased that they experienced what they came to the theater to experience.
Breaking the fourth wall is what 3D is famous for and therefore what viewers come to see.
However, 3D is duel in the sen
se that it is promoted on two contradicting spectacles: breaking the
fourth wall and causing the film to appear ‘more real’.
When something appears to jump out of the
screen, one is startled and automatically becomes aware that ‘Wow, this feels real’. How
ver, in the

very moment that one

s aware of this feeling, one is

n from the fantasy back into the
seats of

the theater.

This moment is the rebuttal that Metz has been waiting for. The breaking of the
fourth wall is
precisely an “unveiling of a
, as the viewer undeniably suddenly becomes aware
of the fact that the fantasy is indeed fantasy and is trying to escape from its world into the real world
of the theater. If breaking the fourth wall was all that 3D could accomplish, then indeed Metz’
theory of multiple beliefs would be triumphant. Not to say that it does not apply to most 3D films,
because it does quite nicely. But 3D is also capable of other feats.

Instead of breaking the fourth wall in order to (supposedly) create a more realisti
c atmosphere


an alternative approach
, for which it has gained praise: “
The film never uses 3
because it has it,

and doesn't promis
cuously violate the fourth wall
” (Ebert, 2009)

Penetrating the
fourth wall may initially seem to
what 3D is all about, but



doing so is actually
far more effective

By being less obtrusive, the viewer is less aware of the media itself, and
therefore not disturbed and removed from the story and, essentially, from Pandora.
This alternat
use of 3D technology is fully intentional and explained by the production designer for the film Rick

I think the component that's been added in this movie is the three
dimensional space that's
not coming to where you are, but asking you to com
e into the screen. And I would even go so far as
to say it may be something that starts to shift the age
old idea that the audience has to suspend its
disbelief. I think it's not dealing with negatives, I think it's actually inspiring you

believe. And I

think that's a subtle thing, but I think people are feeling it. And I think they're feeling it because
when they go in, that dreamlike quality is somehow immersing them, so that that's why peopl
e are
going back.” (Schwartz, 2010)

Media transparency is the

key to self deception here, and people
gladly, even passionately, seek it out. One could question the degree of reality (which in itself is a
conundrum) that is present in the theater when

is playing. Perhaps fantasy is able to step
outside of the
screen into reality through the minds of the believers.


According to
Jean Baudrillard
, any discussion of
reality is out of the question.

His analysis of
any representation (‘sign’) states that there are four stages
(Baudrillard, 1988 quoted in Longhurst et
al., 2008: 301)
through which the representation moves.
The first stage of a representation is a
reflection of basic reality, simply mirroring reality. It may be argued that
contains elements
that could be c

as such

on a purely symbolic level

pertaining not to the visual signs but to
the basic human emotions portrayed in the film

as a reflection of actual human emotions

or actual
views held by real people
. The second stage masks and perverts a basic reality, which
some critics

would claim
the film accomplishes by criticizing certain aspects of American society by twisting or
exaggerating the truth. By making the military the enemy in the film, some would s
ay that the film
portrays a perverted version of how the American military actually acts and conducts itself.
can also be true by promoting issues such as the environment; the film shows a subjective or biased
view of an issue by showcasing problems i
n a certain light
, often in the very simplistic
light of
black or white
As Jonathan Gray (Gray,
2006: 3
) points out in a similar setting: one is not merely
watching the representation, but the rather the issues that the representation evaluates through th
lens of the representation.
The third stage
masks the absence of a basic reality. While

be a vessel for many things, it is also merely a movie and an event in itself. Without all the strings
that people so eagerly attach to it binding it to re
ality and issues in the real world, it is still able to

stand alone and simply be a story about an alien planet. Finally, in the fourth stage there exists no
ties to reality in any form and
the representation relates to nothing, putting it in the category

Big blue aliens do not exist in the real world, and neither does anything else that exists
on Pandora or even Pandora itself. Without the film
, everything we have seen
on screen
would simply cease to exist. Its whole existence relies on the images conferred to us through the
while actually showing nothing of the real world, it manages to portray an alien
world in a very down to earth


Foreign Fa


is dualistic experience in several ways, and one of these ways is the combination
of the foreign with the familiar in the setting of Pandora. First and foremost, the setting is an
unfamiliar, alien planet. It is different from ou
r own planet Earth, and very colorful and exotic. It
invites one in to explore, and while exploring the forest with Jake, one feels like a tourist and an
adventurer at the same time. The experience is easily likened to that of the mass tourist, fulfilling
John Urry’s quota of features linked to that of the mass tourist

(as cited in Longhurst et al.,

tourism is a leisure activity, as which watching

must primarily be categorized.

Watching any film for that matter is part of one’s leisur
e time in contrast to one’s work life, two
spheres which are deliberately

separated in western society
At the end of

(or any film), the
viewer/tourist will return home and to the work sphere. One of the criteria is that there be
movement from where the tourist normally resides. Although the tourist in this setting does not
actually leave the theater, it can be argued th
at the combination of being captivated by the story and
having one’s senses tricked by surround sound and most potently 3D causes the viewer to mentally
and emotionally to leave the theater
, and thereby be conceived as a tourist. This is reinforced by
’s argument that much of tourism is centered

the visual. The core of sightseeing is the act of
seeing, visually examining and being in awe of something one has experienced visually. If the
visual is the most prominent sense involved in sightseeing, then

it can be argued that the viewer of

can experience very similar if not the same feelings as a tourist in a foreign environment.

Finally, mass tourism is a social activity.

is both a social activity and an individual one. It is
a social activ
ity firstly because one experiences the film in a theater alongside fellow viewers.
Although how an experience affects people is different, everyone in the seats is seeing the same

images and hearing the same sounds. Secondly, it is a social activity becau
se of all of the media
coverage of the film. When a film or a similar event becomes as well known as

became, it becomes a ‘must see’ attraction. The term is used loosely and often more in hope of such
success than in an actual description of

the film’s current social status. However, when used
correctly, it means that having seen the film becomes near crucial to be able to participate in
everyday conversations, in some circles more than others, naturally
, as some demographics are
more likely
to attend movies

than others; “y
oung adults are the movie industry's best customers.

Dortch, 1996
The fact that one is met with conversation about a subject in private
arenas as well
as with mention and discussion of it in public forums implies that it

is indeed a social affair.

, it is also a very personal affair
. While sitting in the theater, surrounded by strangers, one
is not focused on the actual surroundings, but the fantastic surroundings in front of one.
By being

transported into Pandora,

one logically must no longer be in the seat of the theater, and so not
experiencing the film with the crowd around one, but alone in the intimacy of one’s own emotions.

Urry also maintains that there are (at least) two different ways for the tourist to l
ook at, or ‘gaze’
upon and experience, a sight, and

can be said to fulfill the criteria for both. One gaze is the
‘collective gaze’, which correlates to the notion of sightseeing as being a social event. The sight
gains value as after seeing it one
becomes a part of the group that has shared this particular
experience, which
is true for
; it creates the atmosphere of a tourist attraction.
The collective
gaze is more often a matter of manmade wonders, and so it reinforces the fact that much of the hype
is due to its manmade technological genius; many viewers come primarily to
witness the effect of the 3D technology.
The ot
her tourist gaze is the ‘romantic gaze’

which is
where the sight gains value

according to the ‘undisturbed natural beauty’.

People come to see the
sight because it is deemed to contain a certain atheistic value in its natural untouched form
. The
flora of
Pandora is incredible, and very detailed and documented. Before filming began, Cameron
wanted all of the plant and animal life on the planet to be written about in detail (to create a similar
to the Star Wars films), and so

a ‘Pandorapedia’ w
as crafted

(Schwartz, 2010)
the nature and wildlife on Pandora are exotic and unfamiliar, it is also very familiar. This paradox is
very simple. The plants may be enormous and glow in the dark, but they still very much resemble
the plant life


ow from Earth. The animals are huge and are not like any particular animals that
we have, yet we recognize bits and pieces of familiar animals (and dinosaurs) glued together to
create something ‘new’. This is a most clever trick on Cameron’s part. Of cours
e it must be difficult
to think up things that have no base in reality, especially if one is of the school of thought that
nothing truly new can be construe
d without a leaping off point
. But even if the choice had been his
alone, it would be advisable to
create Pandora as he did. It is foreign in a most familiar manner,
with the result that it is exciting in a safe way. The viewer is curious, yet c

It is a safe
space to explore in, because even though the tourist has never been to Pandora before,
somehow feel that they have, and that is reassuring. It also ensures that the viewer quickly feels at
home, wants to stay, and easily can slip into the film and
become a part of it.

duality of it is the security of home and the lure o
f something that indeed is different and contrasts
with one’
s everyday life, as Urry writes is an important part of the tourist experience

(as cited

Longhurst et al., 2008: 285).

Films, in particular 3D films, are an easy way in which to experience
extraordinary while living an ordinary life.

Revolt against Realism

The ease with which unattainable fantasies can come to life in film makes it an obvious arena in
which to embrace this opportunity.
William Earle is famous for his attitude towards rea
lism in film.
While many may command the viewpoint

that realism is key in films
, Earle disagrees.
In his essay
Revolt against Realism in the Films

(Earle, 1968), Earle


perception itself

is inherently
realist, and

is inherently defined in terms of p
ossible perception.” (Earle, 19
: 145)

Perception, though, is subjective by nature as it is how humans interpret things which have been
experienced through one or more senses. The object of perception may have an intend
ed message,


Part of it is planned to be released to the public.


but that does not necessarily equate the two.

ven realism is
drenched in value

incapable of being

a mere reflection of reality, but always also vulnerable to the viewer’s
subjective perception
. The objective percepti
on is a myth; Nietzsche’s name for the concept
conveys the message clearly: he called it the ‘immaculate perception’

(Nietzsche as cited

in Earle,
: 147)

However, (almost) all humans are born with the same sensory abilities, and so what we
perceive mu
st be somewhat similar. In order for a perception to be deemed ‘true’ or a ‘fact’, it must
be perceived identically by others
, and is thereby ‘real’.
However, when a ‘real’ object is used in a
different way than usual, it creates a new line of thought. Ear
le points out that

a dislocation will
show that object in a new light
” (
Earle, 19
: 149)

The object can become a representation for
something other than itself. Earle praises the medium of film for this purpose:

…it is almost as if

were predestined to be an excellent

surrealist medium.” (Earle, 19
: 149

Films are a

forum for surrealism, as they

cause a suspension of belief

while everyone

camera can lie, we do not look initially at photographs as though they

were lies. And so the force of
movies to wrench us out of our habitual realism is
particularly great.” (Earle, 19
: 150)

The ease
with which films can lead us astray from reality is largely due to the opportunities that editing and
arranging provide, and

so today’s cinematic technology (digitalization and 3D) would
expand on this fantasy
invoking arena.
The setting of the movie theater plays a role as well:

conditions of viewing a movie, in a darkened room, are particularly conductive to
a form of dreamy
participation where the marvelous would not appear simply as wrong, si
lly, or outrageous.” (Earle,
: 150)

Though Avatar is not a ‘realist’ film

as such, it is true that “every effort is devoted to
making the audience un
aware of the cam
era” (Earle, 19
: 150), because that is the
foundation for
the immersiveness

in the film. Not being aware of the media is what allows
for one’s mind to travel
through the screen and into the fantasy
, and allowing one’s mind to enter the fantasy is gives t
surreal film its power of making people see things in a new light through the use of symbolism.
Surreal, or ‘magical’ films are

where the bringing together of distant realities constructs a world
closer to the hidden desires of the heart than public r
lity could provide.” (Earle, 19
: 150)

Things that cannot so clearly be expressed through reality have the mechanisms of surrealism and
symbolism to aid them in their quest. This is the foundation for
animated entertainment’s power to
comment on and cri
tique society and politics.

Through representation and symbolism, the intended
message becomes more lucid. Also, the criticism becomes softer and easier to digest.

ditor in chief

fiction web

explains that the fantastical foundation
of surreal films creates an atmosphere of

“narrative safety”
(as cited

in Itzkoff, 2010). Fantasy
based films are universes in which it is safe to discuss almost anything, because there are no
consequences. All tho
ughts are liberated to be thought through, because they are not real:

something very satisfying about being able to think through those issues without feeling you’re
actually taking a p
olitical position, b
ecause you’re not

you’re just talking ab
out stories.”

(as cited

in Itzkoff, 2010

A world of representation is easier to relate to. It is somehow more accessible for
people to look at and understand a metaphor of something in their own life than to see the real
thing. Sometimes taking a step bac
k is necessary in order to see the big picture. Ironically, we are
often blinded by reality, as we accept it as simply being ‘reality’ instead of seeing it for what it
really is. Sometimes we cannot truly see the nature of something until it is presented t
o us in the
form of a metaphor.

The storyline of Avatar has been criticized for being too simple and too similar
to other stories. However, the simplicity of the story can be viewed as a positive element; a simple
story is the best way to convey a politica
l, critical or moral message. The symbolism is easier for
the masses to decode if they are not completely distracted by keeping the storyline straight.

is a science fiction film, and
science fiction does build on central debates of our time and in
us to read what unfolds as
” (Jenkins, 2010)

Throughout all the varied reactions to the

film, there is one common denominator:

There is, at least, consensus among “Avatar” critics that
good science fiction operates on an allegorical leve

(Itzkoff, 2010)

Human Nature Gone D

A very important part the natural world of Pandora

something that has been interpreted by many on
an allegorical level,
is the

organic communications

(Davis, 2010)
, a living plant network
connects the Na’vi to nature and to their ancestors. This network is inferred by many to be a
symbol for the internet. This assumption is based on the fact that th
e Na’vi literally “
plug into the
glowing tree

with their USB ports in their ponytails.
” (Crai
n, 2010) This network ends its
similarities with the internet here, because it also connects to their deity, which means that she

does not have to be believed

she can be
.” (Davis, 2010) There is a duality here; the
duality of feeling like you are experiencing something that is only real because you believe it to be
real, and at the same time within the film being attracted to the fact that one need not merely
believe, bec
ause it is possible to experience what in our world is impossible to experience, namely a
physical connection with God.

is of the seemingly contradictory truth of

Avatar blaming its problems on its
parents; while the storyline criticizes t
he ruthlessness of

corporate America
, the

is indeed
produced by cor
porate America (by FOX, even)

and would not exist without it. One critic
complains about the “…
smug anti
corporate plot. In reality
in the reality outside the movie

Na'vi, too, are

a product of corporate America and are creatures of technology, not nature. Now
there's nothing wrong with technology per se, and there's nothing wrong with fantasy, either.


claims that there


something wrong with technology, and that the Na'
vi of Pandora
ow represent opposition to it.” (Crain, 2010)

A digitally themed duality is

the duality of digitalization: While the digitalization of images has
“remov(ed) its claim on the real” (Winston, 1996: 259 as cited in Longhurst et al., 2008:
302), it
also has its focus on achieving just that: the real. A realistic experience, albeit of an unrealistic

Stevens calls the


first mega
blockbuster that's fully broadband
”, comparing it to
other less technically advanced yet similar fi
lms. To her, the allegory is complete:

Its hero is
literally an avatar, the virtual representation of a live human being who manipulates its adventures
remotely, like the player of a video game.
” (Stevens, 2009)

Niedzviecki is less positive about the

Call it the cyborg effect. It’s the discomfort we feel when people meld with technology and
become their own o
ngoing project and product.” (Niedzviecki, 2009: 41)

Altered by Avatar

Production Designer Rick Carter

contemplates the
transformation that the film guides the viewer

They all have drama created out of the journey, out of the traveling, and into someplace
that you weren't when you started. So the thing that I've always looked to is, where's the portal?
Where is it

that I'm going from where I start? Sometimes it's inward. But in the case of
, it
was both in and out. Because not only were we projecting to another planet, which was the Oz part,

we're also going to it through an interior mode, going somewhere els
e, through an avatar state.
Which is a not
defined process, of course.
” (as cited in
Schwartz, 2010)

People are affected by Avatar in an unusual way, a way which they perhaps cannot define. Carter
attempts to elaborate:

, to me, was the
first one where I really had the feeling like I had
gone to the other side of the screen.

Well, also I think where you lose yourself a bit. And I think
that again, that's the avatar state. Because you're only partially you anymore. Then you come back:
, yeah, that's right. I'm here."… it's going somewhere else, and then what do you learn when
you go there? And how does that impact who
you are at the end of the movie?”

(Carter as cited in
Schwartz, 2010)

Producer Jon Landau answers this philosophical pondering by leaving open
ended, mirroring the

The movie opens with eyes open, and it ends with eyes open. I think there's an awakening of
people. It's something that they are more conscious of. I don't

think they've necessarily figured it out
for themselves.
” (
as cited in Woerner, 2010)



is not just an economic success, a technological breakthrough and a commercially and
critically acclaimed film.
It has gotten under the skin of people
around the world, Americans in
particular. Some love it, others love to hate it
, and some just need to talk about it. S
ome project their
own agenda onto the film, while others try to decode what Cameron encoded.
There are several
theories on why this film
ffected people in the
manner that it has. First of all, Generation Y has
a great acceptance of the film due to their
tendency towards

copying in all of its forms.
The Millennial Generation also reacts extremely positive towards Avatar, as it
reflects many of the
Millennials’ values such as unity, harmony and respect for all living things. Generation Me, on the
other hand, is self
ed, unrealistic and infatuated with fame.

They have been reared in such a
manner that they now feel entitled and expect things to be handed to them as things have been
previously in their lives.
They wish to escape dull reality into a fantasy version of th
and fortune are things they see as achievable, as they have been told that they can do anything.
Instead of wishing to be others, they dream of becoming famous as the person they are, oftentimes
sidestepping the subject of talent altogether.

However, these three generations are one and

the same group of people. T
hough their attributed
features seem
quite contrary, they are n
ot mutually exclusive
, and they all come together and find a
common denominator in
It is possible for the youth
of today to be individualist and
unity. The most accurate picture of this would be the superhero: the superhero is the culmination all
of the values of all three generations in one.

One of the reasons that
has such a great affect on people is because of the 3D technology
created for the film. The primary sense of humans is their eyesight, and so 3D has an enormous
affect on people.
As Metz claims, t
here is always the duality of belief while watching a film;
knows that it is merely a film, yet in order to immerse oneself in the storyline, it is necessary to

suspend one’s belief. However,
while 3D that breaks the fourth wall makes this
feat more difficult,
the use of 3D in

t easier.

Degrees o
f reality are by nature a tricky matter, but Baudrillard
assists in categorizing

them, ultimately placing it in the fourth stage as

is pure simulacrum. This place of fantasy is
a place that viewers enjoy visiting and wish to visit again,

similar to a tourist experience. The
viewer to transported out of the theater and into the fantasy to explore the fauna and flora of
Pandora through the use of 3D technology. This delving into fantasy is a positive step away from
realism in films, as with
in the fantasy a kind of third space is created where all subjects can safely
be debated and symbolism can more clearly be correctly interpreted by the viewer.

The age old fear of the cyborg human naturally appears in this setting as
much of Avatar and
dora is permeated with technology and social commentary against it in a dualistic dispute where
neither is right nor wrong. The one thing that can be agreed on is that Avatar as a work of ‘science
fantasy’ can be read on many allegorical levels and will be

interpreted by anyone and everyone in
their own way and utilized in whatever personal or political manner they see fit. But one cannot
ignore the fact that Avatar has touched a nerve in humanity, and some will never be the same for
having witnessed it.



Image 1) A
of Disney’s animated film

(1995) which has been altered into a
summary of Cameron’s film

(2009). (Bateman)


Image 2) An ad seen
March 20, 2010
on YouTube
(and several other
websites) with the caption:

Define your own virtual reality, and be who you want to be on IMVU. Meet new
people from
around the world.
Chat in 3D... and have fun!

ge 3) An audience viewing the film Avatar. The picture accompanied the article ‘
experience 'Avatar' blues
’ on CNN’s website:



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April 20, 2010

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Accessed April 18, 2010.

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May 1, 2010.

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Accessed April 26, 2010.

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Accessed April
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Accessed March 28, 2010.

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Accessed April 21, 2010.


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Accessed April 20,

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Accessed April 15
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Accessed April 20, 2010.

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Accessed May 4, 2010.

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